Last season the Monarchs had their ups and downs but one of the plus sides was the re-emergence of a former Birmingham rider. Steve Hodgkinson came back to the Perry Park track midway through the season. Steve made an impact on the track as well as in the pits keeping the positive atmosphere and urging the next stars on. We caught up with him to see his thoughts on coming back and also to this coming season.
So Steve how have you found getting back into Cycle Speedway and has it changed a great deal since you last rode?
Surprisingly easy actually. After having a couple of laps on Phil’s bike after the Horspath meeting last summer I was soon pedalling to speed and felt like I had never stopped! It has been something like 27 years since I last rode and there are a few things different since then. Firstly the club was known as ‘Kingstanding Monarchs’ so it is nice to see the club have taken the city’s name.
The Elite League has seen the sport progress and the coverage on SKY Sports has been a great advert for the sport. The “import” of Polish riders into the EL squads gives the top teams strength. Girls in the sport were rare back in my day so it is good they have their own championship and some are very good. Also equipment has progressed a fair bit and their are plenty more options and styles.
Last season you were called on to ride for the 1st team in the Elite and Midland and got some very good scores. How did it feel to be riding with some of the top riders in the country?
Well I have to say I was little surprised to be utilised in the 1st team as much as I was. However given the unavailability of key team members in those meetings it was great experience from my perspective, also it certainly helped me realise my gating ability is still good and can still mix it with the best at the start gate! Luckily for me being out of the sport for so long I have little idea who anyone is or how good they are though reputations mean very little to me because every rider is there to be beaten and challenged.
You competed in the Indoor Championship back in December. Did you enjoy the experience and how did you feel it went?
The Indoor Cycle Speedway is so different to the outdoors and you need to adapt to it. At first I found it extremely difficult to adapt to the tight turns. The pre championship training certainly helped but I really just part for the experience. I was annoyed I got excluded in my final heat as I expected to win it and finish 5th. I think it is a great way of keeping fit in the winter too.
Since the season ended how as the winter training been going? Also have you made any changes to your bike ahead of this seasons campaign?
Winter training has been a little fragmented due to the ridiculous weather we have had, but I have been running on a regular basis. The Winter indoor training sessions on a Sunday have helped with continuing my fitness and my plan is to step things up with a month to spare. I have taken a knock back with a muscle tear in my back picked up training indoors last week!
Equipment wise, I am still updating. Picking up a new frame and already I have new sets of tyres/inner tubes and wheels, updated crank, new saddle, new pedals, handlebars. I will pick up probably the rest that I need too, so in short should be starting with a new bike. Keep bits for spares and keep a 2nd for indoors
Birmingham have had a few rider changes this winter, how do you feel the Monarchs will do in the Elite and Midland this coming season?
I haven’t looked at the full side yet but having lost a few big names to other teams this season it looks like we have gone for strength in depth. Not sure if that will be enough for the EL to be championship contenders as some teams look very strong this season. The bonus of a strength in depth team is that we should be able to put up a good fight in the Midland League.
Last year you helped the younger and less experienced riders in the combination team with your experience and knowledge. Is that something that you like to do more?
Definitely!! This is part of the reason I wanted to get back into the sport. Helping the youngsters and the less experienced to progress as really they are the future of the sport and the club. I found out that I have been put forward as the club`s coach and will do the coaching course very soon. This is something I feel very important to the clubs and my own personal development.
Have you set yourself any goals, targets for the season ahead?
My main goal is to stay fit. Besides that I want to make an impression in the EuroVets and to challenge for podium places. Also I will be entering some individual meetings (in the overs) with the aim of finishing on the podium too.
At a club level I obviously hope to be able to start implementing some coaching to the club once I have completed the course. Racing wise for the club I have no specific goals other than to enjoy my racing preferably in the 2nd team and Midland league and help the club at EL level if required.
You are entering the Eurovets series this year which looks to be having a strong competitive field. What made you decide to join the series and have you set yourself any goals?
To be honest this was my whole reason for racing again. Do a bit to keep fit and enter the overs competition. The EuroVets seems more my level, riding against people of a certain age and ability. I like the idea of going to tracks and places that I have never been or seen before. Tracks and places like Edinburgh and Newcastle. I won’t be going to make up the numbers as i’m way too competitive to just accept taking part! A trophy and podium finish is a minimum!
We would like to thank Steve for the interview. This season we will be following the Eurovets and the fortunes of the Birmingham riders with the season opener at Leicester’s Slater Street track on April 20th.